Profiles of Tyranny: Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City and former Democratic presidential candidate, has done such a poor job handling the COVID-19 pandemic that liberal news magazine The Atlantic ran an article about him on April 6 entitled “The Mayor Who Can’t Rise to the Occasion.” In that article, Alexander Nazaryan says that de Blasio seems irritated about having to deal with the coronavirus and “has indicated that irritation with the subtlety of a Times Square advertisement” and that “he has evinced no passion for New Yorkers, or New York.”

Of course, much of that article, and a March 26 column in the Intelligencer headlined “When New York Needed Him Most, Bill de Blasio Had His Worst Week As Mayor,” both focus on de Blasio not doing enough, soon enough, to combat COVID-19. If you were frustrated or upset by de Blasio’s early reluctance to take tyrannical measures in New York City, then you must be delighted by the way he has made up for it since then.

On March 27 de Blasio held a press conference in which he outlined all of the steps that would be taken to combat the spread of the virus. You can read a complete transcript of the press conference if you’d like, but about twenty-three minutes into it he begins to address religious gatherings. De Blasio commended religious leaders for taking steps to minimize risk and for going to online services when they were able to do so, but then transitioned to threat mode: “I want to say to all those who are preparing the potential of religious services this weekend, if you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to, our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services.” He wasn’t finished, though. Saying that in-person religious services were to cease wasn’t yet unconstitutional enough for him, apparently, as he decided to go all the way, adding,

So, the NYPD, Fire Department, Buildings Department, everyone has been instructed that if they see worship services going on, they will go to the officials of that congregation, they’ll inform them they need to stop the services and disperse. If that does not happen, they will take additional action up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently.

The reaction to that was swift and widespread. Kristin Waggoner, writing in the Daily News, said that de Blasio needed to apologize and clarify if his “threat was a careless exaggeration,” and that if it was not an exaggeration “his threat was both cruel and unconstitutional.” One might expect that response from Waggoner, though, since she is the senior vice president for Alliance Defending Freedom and was the lead counsel for Jack Phillips and the Masterpiece Cakeshop. Another conservative organization, the First Liberty Institute, “said de Blasio’s statement crossed the line from protecting people in a pandemic to totalitarian action against churches and religious institutions,” according to an article on RealClear Politics. Terry Firma, on The Friendly Atheist, said “good on him” to de Blasio’s bluster because, according to Firma, “Too many religious people apparently believe that their faith should excuse them from any responsibility for the health and well-being of their fellow citizens.” One might excuse an atheist for not knowing that that is actually the very opposite of what many “religious people” are taught within their faith. I would love to tell you that even some Democrats spoke out against de Blasio’s dictatorial statement, but I have been unable to find any examples.

Fast forward a few weeks and de Blasio stepped it up another notch. Following the example of Eric Garcetti, de Blasio announced via Twitter on April 18 that New Yorkers could help ensure compliance with social distancing orders. Reporting is simple: “just snap a photo and text it to 311-692,” the tweet read. Not surprisingly, the number was inundated with texts and pictures—many of them inappropriate and/or expressing opposition to the encouragement to spy on one another.

In between the threat to permanently close churches and synagogues and his exhortation for New Yorkers to become government snoops, de Blasio urged President Trump to deploy the military to address the pandemic and he signed an executive order the NYPD and the Sheriff’s Department the authority to seize unused medical equipment. According to NYC, the “official website of the City of New York” de Blasio called, on April 2, for “the federal government to institute an essential draft of all private medical personnel to help in the fight against COVID-19.” Writing of de Blasio’s draft proposal, J.D. Tuccille wrote, “Bill de Blasio isn’t alone as a government official who sees in the crisis an opportunity to go full commissar.”

For his asserted conviction that he has the right to permanently close churches and synagogues, that he has the right to order the seizure of medical equipment, that medical personnel should be assigned to his fiefdom and his encouragement for New Yorkers to snitch on one another, Bill de Blasio is the second selection for my Profiles of Tyranny series.


Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Portion Control

New York City has been in the news again lately, this time for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to restrict restaurant soda sales to 16 ounces. His reasoning? He told MSNBC, “The percentage of the population that is obese is skyrocketing. We’ve got to do something.”

In an editorial on, Dr. Deborah Cohen, of the non-profit, non-partisan RAND Corporation said Bloomberg is right in advocating portion control as a way to combat the obesity epidemic in the U.S. Bloomberg has been quoted as saying, “You tend to eat all of the food in the container. If it’s bigger, you eat more. If somebody put a smaller glass or plate or bowl in front of you, you would eat less.” Cohen agrees, writing that the mayor’s proposal “opens the door to one of the most important solutions to address obesity: portion control.”

According to both Bloomberg and Cohen the average person is apparently too stupid to regulate consumption on his or her own, and therefore needs to government to do it. Cohen points out that, “The Agriculture Department has established serving sizes for every type of food available — although there are no regulations applying portion sizes to restaurants.” That’s because the Agriculture Department has developed what are known as “recommended daily allowances.” The key phrase there is “recommended.” If the government wants to conduct the research necessary to determine what a healthy quantity of foods, or food categories, would be for a person, then it can do so, I suppose (though even the necessity of that is dubious at best). However, for the government to get into the business of determining how much of a food can be served to any person is a serious violation of a free market society, not to mention the “inalienable right” to the pursuit of happiness referenced in our Constitution.

Bloomberg pointed out that is someone really wants more than 16 ounces of soda there will be no restriction on that person buying another one. I have not seen what impact the restriction will have on free refills offered at some restaurants; perhaps as long as no more than 16 ounces is served at one time that will be okay, I don’t know. And frankly, I don’t care.

See, Cohen’s editorial is headlined, “Bloomberg right that portion control works.” And with that statement I agree. Unfortunately, that’s about the end of my agreement with Dr. Cohen. See, she thinks, as does His Honor Mayor Bloomberg, that the government needs to control the portions for me (or anyone else). I counter that with the argument that portion control does indeed work–but if someone does not care enough about his or her health to restrict their own portions, the government has no business doing it on their behalf.

I have no problem leaving some of the food on my plate if I get full, or leaving some of the drink in my glass if I do not need any more. If someone cannot do that–if someone is so lacking in self control that he simply must eat and drink everything that is set before him–he has problems that go way beyond the sugar content of a 16 ounce soda. It’s still his problem, though; not mine, not yours, and certainly not the government’s (at any level).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my 20 ounce soda….

Protecting the Minds of Impressionable Youth

In recent weeks there has been a flurry of activity in New York City over the efforts on the part of the Board of Education to no longer allow churches or other religious organizations to meet in school facilities when school is not in session. Originally the Board of Education and the New York Housing Authorities announced that they would no longer allow churches to meet in schools or community centers. After protests, the Housing Authorities announced on January 6 that it would reverse its position, but the Board of Education has not changed its mind and, unless something changes, as of February 12 the ban will take effect. According to a report in WORLD, “If the ban prevails, more than 150 congregations will have to move to other meeting space starting next month–and that’s hard to find in New York City.”

So what exactly is the problem? After all, churches without their own meeting space have met in schools and other community buildings for decades. I can remember being part of a church start up as a child, and we met in a bank and then in a public school auditorium until the church was able to purchase land and put up its own building. Not only is the school space typically sitting vacant when many churches meet (Sundays), the churches rent the space, providing income for the school system, the city or the county. The problem, apparently, is the damage that allowing churches to meet in school facilities may do to the minds of young people. Tiffany Owens’ article in WORLD cites the Board of Education as saying that the ban will “protect the minds of ‘impressionable youth.'”

The Bronx Household of Faith took the New York Board of Education to court over the ban. I would have expected the courts to rule in favor of the churches. After all, it is established precedent that if a public facility it going to allow outside groups to rent its space (or use it for free, whatever its guidelines may be) it cannot discriminate as to what kinds of groups may use the space. Much to my surprise, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a church has no right to use a school for its place of worship. Then last December the United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, thereby upholding the lower court’s ruling.

Let’s dig into this matter a bit more, shall we? Marci Hamilton is an attorney and a columnist for According to her bio on the site she is “one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States and the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University.” In her article for the site today she analyzes the issue in order to support her position that the courts got it right. As she states them, the facts of the case include a New Your City Department of Education rule barring the use of school facilities for religious worship services, but allowing “religious clubs and groups to use public schools, just as the Boy Scouts and other extracurricular clubs did, as long as the clubs’ and groups’ activities were open to the general public.” The Bronx Household of Faith uses a middle school for its weekly worship service and a fellowship meal that follows the service. Hamilton says the church was not charged rent (though other sources, including FOX News, have reported that the church did pay rent), and commented that the church “dominates the building with its religious use of the premises on Sundays.” Here is the apparent rub, though: the church “excludes from its services and post-service meals anyone who is not baptized, is excommunicated, and/or advocates the Islamic religion,” according to Hamilton. According to Judge Pierre Leval of the 2nd Circuit, however, the church excludes such individuals from “full participation” in its services.

Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t bother me one bit. In fact I would expect that. Almost ANY group has requirements for full participation or membership. Even, by the way, public schools! A public school will not allow a student who has only taken 5th grade math to enroll for a Trigonometry class, for example. And, believe it or not, a public school will not allow a student to participate in graduation exercises or receive a diploma until he or she has met all of the requirements/standards for graduation. Kinda sounds like requiring baptism for full participation, doesn’t it? And a public school will not allow a student who has been suspended or expelled from school to be on school property, let alone participate in school activities. Sound anything like excluding individuals who have been excommunicated from the church? And a public school will also exclude students who advocate dangerous or threatening activities. A church should have a right to consider Islam dangerous or threatening if it so desires.

Hamilton goes on to note that, “the intensity of the religious worship use undoubtedly leads students to believe that the church and its views are being endorsed by the school, and thus leads to likely confusion regarding the connection between the religious group and the public school.” Hogwash, I say. By the time they are in middle school most students are plenty smart enough to understand that a group using the school outside of school hours is not necessarily connected with or endorsed by the school at all. Hamilton claims that the issue is akin to that in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez in which it was ruled that Hastings Law School could exclude the Christian Legal Society from receiving school funds–even though other student groups receive such funds–because the group had a policy that violated the school’s “all-comers policy” by refusing to allow homosexuals in the group.

Hamilton’s position is that allowing churches to have services in schools will “open the door for white supremacist, misogynist, and anti-homosexual religious organizations to take up weekly residence in the public schools.” Her language is extreme, and intentionally so I am sure, but again I say, “So what?” If other community groups have positions that I disagree with I do not automatically assume that those positions are held or endorsed by the person, organization or entity who owns the space in which the group is meeting. According to Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund, “of the top 50 school districts in the nation, New York City is the only school district that has a policy banning worship services.” In other words, this statement by Leval is ridiculous: “In the end, we think the board could have reasonably concluded that what the public would see, were the Board not to exclude religious worship services, is public schools, which serve on Sundays as state-sponsored Christian churches.” Do we have a nation full of state-sponsored churches? Nope. And I don’t know one single person who thinks we do, either.

So here’s what I think: if we really want to protect the minds of impressionable youth, lets not worry about letting churches meet in school facilities on Sundays. Lets worry about the filth “we the people” are paying teachers to pour into the minds of our public school students every day.